Back when going to restaurants was a normal occurrence, how many times did you ever walk in and without even looking at a menu order a glass of the "house" wine, whatever it may be? You'd get a perfectly serviceable but never groundbreaking glass of wine for a relatively low price. It wouldn't be your new favorite wine, but it would get the job done. And let's be honest, after a full day of work, all we really need from that first glass of wine is for it to be wet and alcoholic.
I've always been an advocate of taking the concept of house wines out of the restaurant into the, well, house. Wine can be complicated and hard, and a lot of the time you just need a bottle to open at 5:30 p.m. (or earlier — we're all working from home and no one is judging you). That's why I've got my own personal house wines, a few inexpensive, go-to bottles that have become pantry staples in my house. I'm always picking up a bottle or two of them because, just like onions, the one time that I don't will be the one time I run out.
Lago Cerqueira Rosé ($10)
I know people still think of rosé as a 70-degrees-and-sunny kind of wine, but I've found it to be one of the most flexible wines with food. Pairs with Chinese takeout? Yes. Pairs with Mexican? Yes. Pairs with the existential dread of living in our current society? You betcha.
Elvio Tintero Arneis ($12) and H.B. Picpoul de Pinet ($11)
Wine marketers know that consumers are willing to pay more for what they're familiar with, and that's why I tend to shy away from inexpensive whites such as chardonnay or pinot grigio. It's easy to find wines from less well-known grapes, like the Italian arneis or the French picpoul de pinet, that are far higher quality than their more popular counterparts. Arneis is plush and vibrant, creamy like a chardonnay but without any of the buttery opulence that you can sometimes find. Picpoul de pinet is what most pinot grigios wish they were at half the price.
Guild Winemakers Columbia Valley Red Blend ($12)
Is it just me or do most inexpensive red blends all taste the same? And even worse, none of them taste as good as they should. Guild Winemakers, a multi-member, winemaking cooperative based in Oregon, is working to change that. Their red blend features grapes that are native to the south of France and presents them in a single, perfect-for-every-occasion bottling.
Whether it's in a restaurant or at home, you can let me know what you're drinking via Instagram at @sethebarlow or via email at email@example.com.